Martha Davis

The designer's latest footwear collection with the Workshop Residence uses reclaimed materials from the Bay Area


A long career in industrial design informs Martha Davis‘ footwear collection, which was first launched back in 2009. The multifaceted designer spent the last few months at San Francisco’s Workshop Residence, creating shoes by hand from custom steel shanks, vegetable-tanned leather and reclaimed wood from the Bay Area. Debuting today, the three new styles represent Davis’ embrace of natural materials and minimal fashion.


Davis found her work straying away from objects for a time, as she moved into designing user interfaces for digital products. “That’s when I decided to go to Italy,” she says, feeling a need to make things once again. While she appreciates the traditional craftsmanship she learned abroad, the need to experiment eventually won out. “The Workshop Residence was an opportunity for me to really play around with stuff, and I’ve always been interested in natural materials and how to use things without disguising them.”

Davis is the third participant of the Workshop Residence, an organization that provides makers from all walks with the space, funds and access necessary to realize their creations. “I think of the Workshop as being an incubator for makers and designers with Bay Area local manufacturers,” says Davis. Much of Davis’s work relies on the Workshop’s relationship with local manufacturers. For the steel shanks of her shoes, no local manufacturers could be found, so a local metalworker was called upon to custom build the pieces.


All materials used in the collection were sourced locally. The uppers are made from thick, vegetable-tanned leather, and the wooden heels upcycled from a variety of sources. Davis used the remnants of forests burned by local wildfires, their charred character pairing nicely with the designer’s unfinished aesthetic. She also reached out to a San Francisco trolley repair shop for discarded wooden brakes, which are made from Douglas fir and disposed of after only a few days of use.

The shoes strike a balance between chic and utilitarian. “My approach is always fairly architectural,” explains Davis. “I don’t do a lot of decorating.” One of Davis’s more progressive creations has an elliptical heel that can be turned on its side to bring the height down by an inch.


Martha Davis’s collection launches with an event tonight, 24 February, 2012 from 6-9pm at the Workshop Residence and is now available through their shop.

The Workshop Residence

833 22nd Street

San Francisco, CA 94107